Mobile ecosystem fuelling GDP growth across the region
500mil Chinese users accessing the Internet via mobile
THE GSM Association (GSMA) said its latest report shows that the Asia Pacific region now accounts for half of the world’s mobile subscribers and will remain one of the world’s fastest growing mobile markets through 2020 and beyond.
According to the Mobile Economy Asia Pacific 2014 report, there were 1.7 billion unique mobile subscribers in the Asia Pacific region at the end of 2013, accounting for half of the 3.4 billion global subscriber base.
The number of Asia Pacific subscribers is expected to grow by 5.5% a year (CAGR) until 2020, reaching 2.4 billion.
Only Sub-Saharan African is expected to grow at a faster rate during the period. Total mobile connections in Asia Pacific stood at 3.4 billion at the end of 2013 and are forecast to increase to 4.8 billion by 2020.
“Asia Pacific is at the forefront of mobile subscriber growth and service innovation, reflecting its position as home to a diverse range of markets and people,” said Anne Bouverot, director general of the GSMA.
“Innovation in the region is happening at many levels, from leading the way in advanced super-fast mobile services in mature markets to providing essential services such as education, healthcare and banking in the developing world.
“In every case, mobile operator investments are helping drive economic growth and creating jobs,” she said.
Diverse mobile region
The majority of Asia Pacific mobile subscribers is currently concentrated in four major markets: China, India, Japan and Indonesia, in order of size.
Together, these account for three quarters of the region’s subscribers and over a third of the global subscriber base.
China, the world’s largest mobile market, was home to 630 million unique mobile subscribers at the end of 2013, representing about 46% of the country’s population. According to GSMA Intelligence research, there were 1.13 billion active mobile connections in China at the end of 2013, which means millions of Chinese subscribers use more than one SIM card or device; there were 1.79 SIM cards per unique subscriber in China at the end of 2013.
The Asia Pacific region incorporates a diverse range of mobile markets, from highly advanced 4G ‘Digital Pioneers’ including Australia, Japan, Singapore and South Korea, to developing ‘Discoverer’ markets, such as India, where operators are focusing on building-out networks to rural areas and offering affordable mobile broadband services.
With 1.7 billion mobile customers in Asia Pacific, subscriber penetration at the end of 2013 was 43% compared to a global average of around 50%.
Subscriber penetration is above 90% of the population in markets such as Japan and below 15% in markets such as Myanmar, further underscoring the diverse nature of the region, the GSMA said.
A GSMA Intelligence research note issued recently reveals that 500 million Chinese citizens have subscribed to mobile internet services at the end of 2013. The remaining 130 million Chinese subscribers used their mobile connections only for placing voice calls and sending text messages.
It is estimated that the total number of Chinese internet users stood at just over 600 million in 2013, meaning that more than 80% access the Internet via mobile. This demonstrates the critical role that mobile networks play in connecting the population to the Internet.
Operator investments fuelling the economy
The mobile industry contributed US$864 billion to Asia Pacific’s gross domestic product (GDP) in 2013, equivalent to 4.7% of the total. The industry directly supported 3.7 million jobs and contributed US$82 billion to public funding in the region, even before considering regulatory and spectrum fees.
By 2020, mobile is forecast to be an even greater driver of Asia Pacific’s economy, contributing over 6.9% to the region’s GDP and directly supporting more than 6.1 million jobs by this point, the GSMA said.
The positive social and economic contribution of the mobile ecosystem to the Asia Pacific economy is supported by substantial investments in new infrastructure by regional mobile operators, it added.
Over the last six years, capital expenditure (capex) by Asia Pacific operators totalled US$430 billion. Operators are forecast to invest an additional US$730 billion (capex) in the period between 2014 and 2020.
Rapid subscriber migration to 3G/ 4G (Third and Fourth Generation) mobile broadband networks is occurring across the Asia Pacific region, both in advanced and emerging markets.
For Asia Pacific as a whole, just over a quarter of the 3.4 billion mobile connections in the region at the end of 2013 were 3G, while 3% of connections were running 4G. However, these figures are forecast to rise to 34% and 28% respectively, of the 4.8 billion total connections expected by 2020.
South Korea is the world’s most advanced 4G market and is the only country to date to have covered 100% of its population by 4G networks. At the end of 2013, over half of all mobile connections in South Korea were running on 4G networks, the highest 4G penetration rate of any country worldwide.
Mobile operators in China were awarded 4G licences in December 2013 and are now building 4G networks across the country.
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